UI classes to get bigger

BY ANNA LOTHSON | APRIL 15, 2009 7:38 AM

After the UI budget slims down, university officials say classroom size is likely to increase because of hiring freezes and the possibility of faculty layoffs.

In addition to cramming more students in a room or packing an extra dozen people in a lecture hall, faculty would face a proportionately larger work load, officials said.

“We have to be very careful about making these one-size-fits-all changes,” said UI President Sally Mason during Tuesday’s UI Faculty Council meeting.

The UI’s worst-case scenario would be having to cut 12 to 13 percent of the budget, she said, which would mean more than a $30 million reduction. The UI’s general fund budget is typically $580 million, with $270 million coming from state appropriations.

Council member Katherine Tachau, a UI history professor, said a formula must be devised when deciding where to place students, noting instructors teaching classes involving more writing assignments would face a greater burden.

“It can turn a good class into an impossible class,” she said, and each educational field is drastically different in terms of grading methods.

Mason iterated the theme of uncertainty until the final cuts are determined by the Legislature’s funding, but she said she hopes most changes will be temporary.

“All bets are off after this year,” she said.

The economic situation will affect the UI in a much smaller magnitude than the summer flood, Mason said, saying the flood recovery has left her optimistic about overcoming the budget crisis.

Though, she said, addressing both difficulties at the same time has been like choosing “between your two children.”

To ensure new students are not forgotten, Provost Wallace Loh said the UI is going to increase freshman seminars in the next two years.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences holds 40 freshman seminars each year, but Loh said the goal is to increase that number to 100 next fall and 200 the following year. He hopes this will help connect incoming students with faculty and administration while sparking new interests, he said.

Loh plans to teach a course on law and social justice, and Senior Vice President for Finance Doug True, Mason, and various other administrators have volunteered to teach a course in their areas of expertise, ranging from leadership to surgery.

So even in what he called a time of crisis, Loh said opportunities can open up.
“It forces us to think outside the box,” he said.

Though there is “no magic bullet” to solve the issues, he said, he expects a blend of increasing teacher load mixed with increasing class size to help balance the cuts.

Still, amid possibilities, Faculty Council member Paula Mobily, an associate professor of nursing, said people are already feeling the pain from budget cuts.

“I think we have been more reactive than proactive in the last year,” she said.

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